419 falls short of expectations

419I wanted to love 419 by WIll Ferguson SO FREAKIN’ MUCH! I mean, the book won a Giller and was on every bestseller list in the country. And while it was an enjoyable read, it didn’t wow me. With the exemption of the last 20 pages, it was barely a page-turner. Perhaps my expectations were too high. It’s bound to happen when there are so many amazing books out there.

419 is about a Canadian family left devastated after the father falls for a Nigerian scam also known as 419. If you’ve ever receive some ridiculously misspelled and overly formal email telling you that you have been left $100 billion dollars from your uncle in Nigeria, you too have been the target of a 419 scam.

The main protagonist Laura Curtis is left wondering what happened after her father falls for the scam and commits suicide. The story shifts between a blustering cold Canadian city, presumably Calgary or Edmonton, where Laura and her family resides, and Nigeria.

The Nigerian parts of the story exciting, tropical and riveting. There’s the wiley 419 scammer named Winston, a village boy turned oil rigger named Nnamdi and the tribal pregnant girl Amira. Needless to say, Laura’s path eventually joins with Winston, Nnamdi and Amira.

419 would have been so much better had Nnamdi and Amira’s story been the focus. Laura is a lovely girl but she’s bland and slightly dumb. Her brother is dumber. They are made even more bland in comparison with the action packed, civil war plagued setting of Nigeria. After all, Will Ferguson is a renowned travel writer.

But I will give him kudos for shining the light on 419 with all its political and ethical implications. The problem isn’t so much poor Nigerian con artists scamming rich Westerners, it’s the vicious cycle of human greed that makes us all hungry enough to do anything.

419_lagos

Lagos, Nigeria

Calgary, Alberta

Calgary, Alberta

419_nigeria

Lagos, Nigeria

419_calgary

Calgary, Alberta

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3 thoughts on “419 falls short of expectations

  1. I know what you mean about wanting to love this book. I have to admit, I had to stop reading 419 because I found it so sad. I was reading it in the evenings before bed and it triggered reallysad dreams. I know some people who loved it and some who didn’t like it so much. I just hated that the father was so taken it by it all. I’ll have to pick it up again when I have some solid time and can juggle it with a happier tale!

  2. I read this one last year and it didn’t do much for me. I suppose I could see how it won all the awards and that people would enjoy it but it just fell flat for me. Not my kind of novel. It was interesting to learn about 419 and so on but I just didn’t love the book overall. Glad to see I wasn’t the only one!

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